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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 44 older and settle down, they will naturally join groups, which at this point are too expensive for them and filled with older people. rod meade Sperry: It may be healthy for Buddhism to evolve haphazardly into new shapes that probably won’t look like exactly like the shapes we have now. Everything that ever happens in the dharma is an innovation at first—each new sect is an innovation. To some it may be heresy, but for others it’s what works for them in their time and place. What we’re going to see is new forms of Buddhism that are viable and work for whoever comes next. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I’ve also found that when the student is ready, the sangha appears. People end up finding their own sangha or create their own sangha. They see a need that isn’t being served and say, “You know what? I’ll start a sitting group.” In the future we’ll have the old established communities, but we will have a lot of oth- ers too, started by people who are innovating based on their own inspiration. iriS BriLLiant: I think socially engaged Buddhism will be a strong driving force for younger people. Many people my age are very political, and many of them are taking an inter- est in Buddhism or going on retreats. As a result, Buddhism is being integrated into other movements that already exist, such as the environmental, antiracist, and LGBTQ move- ments. People are using practice, especially mindfulness, in a way that is deeply intertwined with social justice. Practice is used not only as a way to become more centered but as a tool to become a more grounded activist. rod meade Sperry: We see that kind of phenomenon displayed, for example, in the Interdependence Project, which Ethan Nichtern has spearheaded. It is not officially a dharma center, but dharma and meditation are taught there. You don’t have to self-identify as a Buddhist, which is wonderful because many of us resent labels. While I love Buddhism—its culture, the sweep of it, its teachings and its teachers—I don’t have anything personally invested in whether or not “Buddhism” lives. All I care about is whether or not the practice lives. Sumi Loundon Kim: I’m not so sure we can easily character- ize the next generation of Buddhist or Buddhist-influenced people based on one model alone. It appears to me that there will probably be a split of populations. There will be young people who take a fairly traditional approach to Buddhism, because they’re looking for a religion and everything that comes with that. On the other side, you’ll have the Buddhist- influenced or meditation-influenced people who may not self- identify as Buddhists or be part of what we would generally call Buddhist communities. Sumi Loundon Kim is the editor of Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists and the former associate director of the Barre Center for Buddhist studies. Rod Meade Sperry is the creator of the pop-/sub-/ dharma-culture website, the Worst Horse, and the communications director for Frances Moore Lappé’s small Planet institute. Iris Brilliant is a student at the University of Michigan, majoring in women’s studies and creative writing. she has participated in teen and young people retreats organized by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and has also attended young people retreats at spirit Rock. Zoketsu Norman Fischer is a former abbot of the san Francisco Zen Center and the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture. The Buddhist community is going to shrink considerably, but the traditions that have taken root in America will not die with the baby boomers. —Sumi Loundon Kim (LefT-righT):LiBByvigeon;gregorypaLmer;sarahsprague;roBerThofmannwiLfredopascuaL